Thursday, October 30, 2008

Study Finds Silver Lining for Maligned Saltcedars aka Tamarisk

Study Finds Silver Lining for Maligned Saltcedars | UANews.orgI love tamarisks -- a neighbor has one in their back yard. Beautiful tree with amazing pink blossoms in spring. We look to that tree on our morning walks to mark the changing season and shift from gray winter to green spring.

It has bugged me forever that this tree is such a nuisance to our riparian areas-- and considered a threat to biodiversity. It has been hard for me to hate something that is so beautiful.

And tamarisk is considered a devil. Enough of a threat that we greens and fans of native plant restoration spend millions of dollars and even more volunteer time eradicating the pesky tamarisk to restore native habitat.

Now it looks like scientists are finding a lot of good news in tamarisks. Read the story linked here on research that spells out where tamarisk thrive in the Colorado River Basin, and why.

What do you think?

For me the take away points are clear: tamarisk doesn't suck a lot of water out of riparian areas. It only thrives where native willow and other natives can't. And birds love it. Let's move on to more important problems. Tamarisk/ saltcedar is proving to be quite valuable in disturbed riparian areas, and providing habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The willows and cottonwoods on western riparian areas will still be there where we humans have not changed the riparian area because of damming, levees, and the resulting floods MIA. The native trees need the flooding to wash out the salts in the soil.

There are limited resources for changing our ecosystem, and it looks like tamarisk eradication funds could be used better elsewhere to promote ecosystem services like wetlands and estuaries we have paved over to make way for automobiles.

Let me put it this way: If we had a million bucks to kill tamarisk and spray herbicides on this invasive tree or to build rain gardens in suburban areas and rip up concrete to promote storm water spreading, soaking and seeping into the ground, rather than running into our streams and Puget Sound, which would be the better use of these resources?

What do you think?

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